If you haven't read Stephen Godfrey's magnum opus on the ways of the college football bag man, I suggest you take 15 minutes or so right quick and rectify that. It paints a pretty captivating picture of the palm-greasers who fuel the sport's big, hairy recruiting machines.
A few thoughts on what I thought was an outstanding article:
*It's very journalism dork, but my first reaction to the piece was to wonder about the reporting and vetting process surrounding it. Given that SBNation's news platform is still in its relative infancy, I'd be interested in finding out more about what went into putting the piece together.
*Consider this article Exhibit A when it comes to debunking the argument that the vast majority of college football players have no value to their programs. Boosters throwing cash and gifts at players who they know won't even sign with their schools gives a pretty good indication as to what recruits could fetch in a free, transparent market.
That second-string safety might not generate revenue directly for his school, but people invested in the program are willing to pay for him to be part of the team. That's what matters.
*In terms of the mechanics of "cheating" in college football, the biggest takeaway from this article might be that any coach who gets caught in a payola scandal probably shouldn't have his job in the first place. The money men can take care of everything without ever actually saying a word to anyone inside the program.
*Hopefully this article illustrates the ridiculousness of the high-horsing from fans when one of these cheating scandals breaks. It stands to reason that any program that regularly signs coveted recruits is paying to play to some degree. If you really believe that all those recruits are turning down free money from Sleazebag State to play gratis for Old Alma Mater U, I don't know what to tell you.
*I will say that I suspect the size of the bags carried by a school's bag men depends on the company the institution keeps. If your closest competitors are making it rain, it seems inevitable that you'll have to do so as well to stay in the hunt.
Note this passage describing the mores in SEC country:
Remember, your job as a bag man isn't to hide the benefit. It's to hide the proof. In a region as passionate about college football as the American South, there's no real moral outrage when new cars or clothes or jobs for relatives appear.
"We can only get away with whatever's considered reasonable by the majority of the folks in our society. That's why it's different in the SEC. Maybe that's why we're able to be more active in what we do. Because no one ever looks at the car or the jewelry and says, 'How did you get that, poor football player?' They say, 'How did they get you that and not get caught, poor football player?'"
Which brings me to an interesting point with regard to Oklahoma...
*Back during the realignment key party when schools were experimenting with new conferences, it was something of an open secret that Oklahoma's leadership was cool (frigid?) on the idea of joining the SEC. In fact, you could argue David Boren and Co. forfeited some major bargaining power in dictating the future of the Big 12 by letting that position be known.
These days, you don't have to search too far on a Sooners message board to find a thread filled with complaints about OU staying tied to the Big 12. Inevitably, these screeds end with "SoonerStud69" lamenting that the school didn't make a break for the SEC two years ago along with Missouri and Texas A&M.
The Sooners' track record of running afoul of the NCAA certainly doesn't give them any room to throw stones. Even so, I suspect key decision makers at OU felt reluctant to join a league of schools that seem to embrace the culture that Godfrey depicted.